With a smile on her face, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley breathed a little fire of her own today when asked about a wealthy businessman's pledge to invest in the province's oil industry if — and only if — she resigns from office.
In his fantasy novel The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: "So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings."
This strange little story, however, began with a dragon ... of sorts.
The whole thing started Monday, when Canadian business mogul Kevin O'Leary, who used to be a regular on CBC's Dragons' Den and the Lang & O'Leary Exchange, told a Toronto radio station he would invest in Alberta energy companies if Notley, leader of the province's New Democratic Party, steps down as premier.
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"I mean no disrespect when I say this, but here's my offer: I'll invest $1 million in Canadian energy companies if, out of grace and for the absolute good of Canada, the premier of Alberta resigns," O'Leary told Newstalk 1010's Live Drive radio program.
"I wouldn't touch them now, because she doesn't know what she's doing," O'Leary said of oil stocks. "Please step down, please. Do it for Canadians."
Asked for her response, Notley drew her sword at a Tuesday news conference and did her best impression of St. George, the mythical dragon slayer.
"You know, the last time a group of wealthy businessmen tried to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I ended up becoming premier," Notley said. "So, if now we've got a Toronto wealthy businessman who wants to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I say bring it on."
Notley was referring to a now infamous news conference held last May, four days before the Alberta election, where five prominent business leaders warned voters about the possible dire consequences of electing the NDP. On May 5, Notley and her party won a huge majority and brought an end to a 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty.
That news conference was seen by some as a sign that Alberta's wealthy business class had too long enjoyed close ties to the Tory party.
Notley's cabinet ministers were also drawn into the firestorm on Tuesday.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips likened O'Leary to a helmet-haired U.S. presidential candidate who is also well-known for shooting from the lip.
"I don't really have any comment on silly things that people who are trying to create celebrity like Donald Trump are doing," she said.
RETWEET if you think Kevin O'Leary needs to start reviewing his "knee-jerk" investment offers & calls for government resignations #ableg ;)— @andrew_leach
Government House leader Brian Mason called O'Leary's comments "pure posturing."
"He knows she is not going to [resign], so he knows his money is safe," Mason said.
Asked what the comments say about the Notley government, eight months into a mandate and with the province's economy in free fall, Mason responded: "By people like Kevin O'Leary? Have you ever watched this guy? Yeah, it's pretty typical."
The battle between the two drew hundreds of comments on CBC's Facebook page and website.
One comment on CBC Edmonton's Facebook page attracted its own little following.